Friday, April 19, 2013

Beginning of the end?

From the time she was a Minnesota state Senator, Michele Bachmann has stirred up the looniest of the loons on the political left. In fact, for nearly a decade, there has been a handful of committed stalkers (I'll call them the "Unhinged Ensemble") who track Bachmann at every speaking appearance, maintain a blog dedicated to her electoral defeat and have written a book on their #1 political enemy. Regardless, that collection of sad sacks has been unable to effectively influence the most conservative Congressional District in the state, as Bachmann is now in her fourth term in Congress. So deranged are the Unhinged Ensemble (whose blog and book titles will get no mentions here) that if Bachmann were elected President and served the maximum two terms, that sleazy collection would undoubtedly take credit for ending her political career as she departed the White House.

Upon being elected to the U.S. House in 2006, Bachmann began to garner a higher national profile, which only added to the contingent of lefty detractors. Bachmann herself touts that fact in a seemingly non-stop series of panicked fundraising emails, which often states that top House Democrat Nancy Pelosi is stopping at nothing to have Bachmann defeated. Yes, it was true that millions of dollars were committed to defeating Bachmann in 2008 and 2010. However, after redistricting took place in 2012, Minnesota's sixth Congressional District became even more "red." As a result, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (and other outside groups who have normally ponied up in an attempt to defeat Bachmann) offered little help to her 2012 opponent Jim Graves. Yet of her four winning elections, the 2012 race was won by the narrowest margin of Bachmann's congressional career -- a mere 1.2%. Compare that to GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who won CD6 by a nearly fifteen point margin. Clearly Bachmann running for President from the Summer of 2011 until just after the Iowa caucuses in January 2012 left her constituents disaffected. As someone who did phone banking in Bachmann's district, I definitely got that impression.

According to the Cook Partisan Voting Index, CD6 rates an R+10. So how is it that each election cycle a House Republican candidate like Bachmann with a staunchly conservative voting record has to spend nearly eight figures (thus diverting financial resources from other potentially competitive races) just to eek out victory (her double digit win in 2010 notwithstanding)? The problem, quite simply, is Bachmann herself. Despite a nearly impeccable conservative voting record, she often makes statements that are factually inaccurate. While I don't believe she blatantly lies, I do think that she has so many stats and numbers flying through her head that her mouth moves much faster than her brain.

Then there's the issue of staff turnover. Regardless if it's campaign staff (President and U.S. House) or the day-to-day operations of her Congressional office, Bachmann has a reputation of being an incredibly difficult boss. There have been more than a few disgruntled employees who have made very damning public statements regarding their tenure as Bachmann staffers. One could argue that such disdain can be chalked up to "sour grapes." However, no one can deny that, empirically, there's been significant turnover in the Bachmann office.

Yes, it appears Bachmann herself is the biggest threat to her political career, more so than any challenger to her House seat. With that in mind, the latest news regarding alleged FEC violations during her Presidential run may be the proverbial final nail.

GOP operative Andy Parrish, a former chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, is expected to tell an Iowa Senate ethics panel that her 2012 presidential campaign made improper payments to its state chairman.

Having maintained a public silence so far, Parrish referred questions Wednesday to his attorney, John Gilmore, who said his client will corroborate allegations from another former Bachmann aide, Peter Waldron.

Waldron, a Florida pastor, claims that the campaign hid payments to Iowa Sen. Kent Sorenson, in violation of Iowa Senate ethics rules that bar members from receiving pay from presidential campaigns.

Sorenson has vehemently denied any wrongdoing, calling the ethics charges “totally baseless, without evidence, and a waste of Iowans’ time and money.” Lawyers for the Bachmann campaign also have denied the allegations.

Waldron’s accusations are also the subject of inquiries by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. The investigations are part of a growing web of legal problems facing Bachmann, including a lawsuit by former staffer Barbara Heki alleging that Sorenson stole a proprietary e-mail list of Iowa home-school families from her personal computer. Those allegations also are the subject of an ongoing police investigation in Urbandale, Iowa.

Gilmore said Parrish can provide the ethics panel documentary evidence that Sorenson was paid $7,500 a month to work on Bachmann’s campaign, money that was funneled to him indirectly through C&M Strategies, a Colorado-based company controlled by Bachmann fundraiser Guy Short.

Among the sources of the funding, Waldron contends, was Bachmann’s independent political organization, MichelePAC, also headed by Short. Attorneys for Short have denied the allegations, which also are part of the FEC inquiry.

If indeed these allegations turn out to be true, Bachmann could easily chalk it up to the fact that she was running for President. Such activity, which likely would have occurred during the day-to-day operations of the campaign, is something that a Presidential candidate isn't micromanaging, and logistically couldn't do so. Nevertheless, the name of the campaign was Bachmann for President. At the end of the day, it's her name that will predominantly be out there as this investigation moves forward. Combine that with the fact Bachmann's House seat is now considered one of the top five targets for Democrats to flip, her reelection prospects become that much more daunting. While she has committed to spend significantly more time in her Congressional District than previous election years (These days, Bachmann often spends weekends meeting with constituents in coffee shop-like venues), it may be for naught if she is cited for what seem to be some serious FEC violations.

Not even the Unhinged Ensemble could have inflicted this much damage to Bachmann's political career.


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